French communications regulator Arcep officially opened applications for the sale of 5G spectrum licenses, Arcep said in a statement.

Interested operators will have until February 25 to submit their applications.

This announcement follows the confirmation of pricing and terms released by Arcep in mid-December.

Arcep also confirmed that it plans to conduct the allocation procedure and award the frequency licenses to the winning candidates in the first half of 2020.

Under the terms of the spectrum auction, France’s four existing operators will be offered 50 megahertz of spectrum in the 3.4-3.8 GHz bands at a fixed price of €350 million ($389 million) for each block. Further blocks of 10 megahertz will then be sold with a reserve price for each lot of €70 million. Each operator can acquire a minimum of 40 megahertz and maximum of 100 megahertz in the process. Authorities expect to raise at least €2.2 billion  with the sale of 5G licenses.

The regulator had also said that the use of the 3.4-3.8 GHz band will be complemented by other bands, each of which will help reach the full potential of 5G. These include the 700 MHz band, which was already allocated to operators in France in 2015, and the 26 GHz band, which will be allocated at a later date.

The country’s four operators Orange, SFR, Iliad and Bouygues are all expected to take part in the upcoming 5G auction.

Arcep’s specifications stipulate that each operator must launch 5G services in at least two cities before the end of 2020. Each carrier should deploy 3,000 sites by 2022, 8,000 sites in 2024 and 10,500 sites by 2025.

Eventually, all of the cell sites must provide 5G service using frequencies in the 3.4-3.8 GHz band or other bands, according to the regulator.

Arcep also highlighted that it is proposing that 25% of 3.4-3.8 GHz band sites in the last two stages must be located in sparsely populated areas, targeting economic activity, notably manufacturing, excluding major metropolitan areas.

By 2022, at least 75% of cell sites must be capable of providing speeds of at least 240 Mbps at each site.

Arcep’s conditions also stipulate the obligation for carrier to deploy 5G to provide coverage in roadways across France.

Arcep has also provided for commitments that seek to improve indoor coverage for business and commercial purposes, and to facilitate coverage by multiple operators. Commitments also concern the supply of dedicated fixed access products on mobile networks.

India allows all vendors to take part in 5G trials

In related 5G news, India decided to allow all network equipment makers, including Huawei, to participate in 5G trials, The Economic Times reported.

“5G trials will be done with all vendors and operators,” telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said. “We have taken an in-principle decision to give 5G spectrum for trials.” On being asked specifically about Huawei, the official said that at this stage, all vendors are invited.

The U.S. has been pressuring its allies, including India, to bar Huawei from 5G deployments, flagging security concerns and citing the company’s alleged proximity to the Chinese government.

According to the report, Indian operator Vodafone Idea has applied to partner with Ericsson and Huawei for 5G trials, while Bharti Airtel has sought permission to conduct  5G trials with Nokia, Huawei and Ericsson. Rival Reliance Jio Infocomm has applied for a 5G pilot with Samsung.


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